10:32am

Fri May 20, 2011
Eastern and Central Kentucky

Grow Your Own on the Uptick

High gasoline prices, high food prices and concern over the environment have Kentuckians more interested in home gardens.  More people want to buy, grow and eat locally.  It’s all in the name of sustainability.

Rona Roberts remembers when she first got the urge to think seriously about sustainability around the home.  The Lexington writer says it was September 12 of 2001….the day after the worst terrorist attack on U-S soil.  Roberts began thinking about how we feed ourselves after listening to noted Kentucky author Wendell Berry.

“We have no idea how much food we ship out of Kentucky.  We have no idea of how much food we eat of our own.  There’s no measurement of these things.  We don’t even know how far we have to go.  Their guess is now but there’s still no real measurement. And he made the point that we could feed ourselves and mean we could survive,” said Roberts.

Roberts also enjoys being in the kitchen, her kitchen, and in her family’s kitchen growing up.  Her love of cooking and interest in sustainability prompted Roberts to launch a blog, which she calls ‘Savoring Kentucky.’  She’s kept up the work for five years.

“My role with the blog is to a local food system accelerator.  So I hope that’s what it does,” added Roberts.

Rona’s husband Steve Kay, who’s also a planning consultant, has planted and maintained a garden at their downtown home for years.

“I moved to Kentucky 40 years ago.  This is a garden of Eden.  This is a place that can sustain itself.  We could grow all our own food,” said Kay.

Not far from Kay’s backyard garden is a community garden for the neighborhood.   In Lexington, Rona Roberts believes there has been a ‘scaling up’ in local food production, with more amateurs and professionals growing food for people who live nearby. 

Earlier this year, she participated as a food judge and attended a food summit.  For local growers, she says, there are hurdles to overcome. For example, she says, local produce must be processed at home. She’d like to see more of that job done by professionals.

“One of the big missing pieces is processors.  And processing is both expensive to create and really complex because of regulations,” said Roberts.

Once a week, Rona and Steve host a ‘cornbread supper.’   She busily makes cornbread, while guests arrive with dishes of their own.  Roberts says it’s a chance for to connect with a larger community.  That connection was apparent to dinner guest Kay Garner.

“There’s no set agenda.  Conversation is what ever comes up.  But, there’s acceptance, there’s tolerance and there’s that sense of community,” said Garner.

Garner says the cornbread suppers allow guests to get a feel for Lexington’s ‘heartbeat.’  

Also at the potluck dinner was Rachel Brugger.  Like many of her peers, the 25 year old is interested in sustainability.

“Seems to be this renewed interest in young people seem to be going towards wanting to farm, not just in the city but, on small farms in the country as well,” added Brugger.

Brugger says she lives in an apartment and, for over an year, she has had a container garden.  This year, she hopes to join with some friends in a community garden.  All in the name of growing your own today, tomorrow, and down the road.